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The Starry Night

Updated: Aug 24, 2023


The Starry Night
The Starry Night


What makes art interesting is how it can be interpreted in various ways. In this post, I will review three differing interpretations of The Starry Night. Post-Impressionism was one of the many different kinds of art popular during the 1800s. Post-Impressionists would express their many feelings in bright colors and short brush strokes. Van Gogh once said, “I don't hide from you that I don't detest the countryside - having been brought up there, snatches of memories from past times, yearnings for that infinite of which the sower, the sheaf, are the symbols, still enchant me as before.” While Impressionists cared deeply about emphasizing colors and texture, Post-Impressionists rejected this idea. Instead, they liked to focus on structure and symbols.

In this painting, Vincent van Gogh was depicting his view from his window at the Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum, where he stayed for twelve months. While there is no confirmed meaning to the art, there is a belief that it could have been biblical. As there are eleven stars, it is seen to reference Genesis 37, when Joseph was favored by his father. This is similar to how van Gogh hoped to be supported as an artist by his peers. Throughout his life, he only sold one painting and was constantly criticized because his art was inconsistent with the trends.

Another popular belief was that it reflected his mental health at the time. The swirls could represent his mind and the different shades of blues, his illness. At the time, his mental health was deteriorating, as evidenced by cutting off his ear and committing suicide.

A third, more positive interpretation that is my favorite was that he portrayed hope. Even though it is visibly night, you can still see everything. The stars are brightening the town, which can give you a sense of comfort. The tower in the middle easily catches your attention as a sign of unity. The cypress tree plays a large part in this, as it can symbolize mourning. The light in the town is a sign of leaving the bad times behind you.

Even though this piece may seem simple, it carries many opposing interpretations. Knowing alternative explanations of a single art piece will help you notice different points of view in everything, not just art.

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